Ways of Building

I’ve been designing and building drawers and a sleeping platform in the back of the truck as a fun little project and wanted to try to get some more organic shapes in my plywood cases – so I started to experiment with template routing. I want to have a warm, dry place to sleep for winter alpine starts in the mountains. One side of the truck bed will be a drawer on 36″ locking drawer slides, the other side is a countertop with 4 cubbies below to store things.

I have 3 routers. A small Rigid trim router that’s great for putting a radius on a corner or routing out a small area (I used it to last to create an opening for an electrical box in a portico I built), a Bosch 1617 fixed and plunge base router, and a Triton 2 1/4 horsepower router that I keep mounted in the router table. I used the Triton last to make tongue and groove from clear fir to repair a floor in our old house before we sold it last October.

I was looking forward to using a template guide from the Bosch, but when I got the tool set up and turned it on, I immediately smelled burning and realized the motor was about to catch fire. The smell of a burning electrical motor is unique – and terrible. I turned it off and on again, and realized the Bosch was dead.

The trim router isn’t powerful enough to cut a template so I had to disassemble the Triton from below the router table. It’s been mounted in the table for the last 8 years and have never used it as a handheld. I was pleasantly surprised. The Triton came with a set of template guides and centering bushing (so that the collet can be centered in the guide and the bit doesn’t spin into the guide).

Routing using a template guide is the like having a CNC machine. Using the template and accounting for the thickness of the guide (1/8″ in my case), any shape can be reproduced exactly. I found that using a track saw (I use a cordless Makita) I can plunge cut any size opening and use that as a guide for the router.

Left case that will hold a 36″ drawer. The top is on piano hinges so that with the tailgate closed I can access anything inside.
Opening for the storage area around the wheel wells – driver’s side. I used 4 pieces of 1/8″ x 1″ aluminum to fabricate tabs that a lid sits on. They’re screwed in from the bottom on each side of the opening.
Attached with piano hinges affording a way to open the top of the case to access anything inside. I used furniture screws and t-nuts to attach the top to the case. The drawer can be disassembled and removed when I need to do truck stuff.

As I was driving back from Mt. Hood after skiing with my daughter I realized how young our civilization is – thinking about how we’ve built the environment from raw materials, extracting resources in the simplest way possible. We build houses from dimensional lumber – 1 step away from a tree. We mix lime and cement and rock to make concrete to build roads and bridges. Our manipulation of the natural world is clumsy and basic, it leads to the ugliness you see in the built environment. In the future, my hope is that we learn to merge with the natural world, using materials at a more atomic level – to build in a simpler, more elegant way. That’s what I mean by young – we’re just infants trying to brute force our will on the world. It’s a losing strategy.

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